Michael Madigan is a fastidious man. It is said that he drinks the same glass of wine in the same Springfield restaurant every night. He reads every bill that comes through his House of Representatives. His clothes are tailored. His form is trim, even at age 69.
Michael Madigan is not the kind of slob who eats at his desk. And he doesn’t want any of the 117 legislators under his thumb eating at their desks, either.
On Saturday, though, one hungry politician rose to condemn that rule. Every year, Rep. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, caters a fried chicken lunch for the entire Capitol. Rep. Jim Sacia, R-Pecatonica, wanted some of that chicken. But the House was in session, and being a conscientious legislator, he didn’t want to leave the floor for the designated chicken-eating room behind the chamber. So instead, he rose to make what is known as a “point of personal privilege” to criticize Madigan’s “Hey, this isn’t a diner” policy. The Speaker instituted the no-eating rule six years ago, after the House chamber was renovated.
“In the Illinois Senate, if you’re hungry and someone provides chicken, you bring it into your place and you sit down and you eat it like the grown adults each and every one of us is,” Sacia shouted, to the applause of his colleagues. “This is not a partisan issue. We all worked hard to get here. We go into the finest restaurants, and they don’t stuff us into a little room in the back and tell us, ‘Sit down and eat.' This is a shame, Mr. Speaker, when one non-elected person makes the rest of us act like children who can’t even handle a spork and dribble out of both sides of our mouth. This is a beautiful chamber. We should be allowed to eat in here.”
Sacia is correct. Senators are allowed to eat at their desks. I have personally witnessed Sen. Emil Jones III stuffing his face with something out of a white paper bag. I think it was popcorn.
Madigan’s spokesman, Steve Brown, says the Speaker is only trying to enforce the same standards as the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, which also ban eating.
“There’s no reason to turn this into a mess hall,” sniffed Madigan spokesman Steve Brown to The Dome Blog.
I wouldn’t equate eating at your desk with a mess hall. There’s not a steam table in the well of the House. There’s not a Smokey Joe grill under every desk, or a guy in the back of the room, barbecuing on a 55-gallon drum.
I am sure that you, gentle reader, are allowed to eat a sandwich at your desk. But you don’t work for Madigan. As long as he is Speaker, no is going to dribble horseshoe cheez on the new carpet.
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